When First They Came…. Prejudice Against Arabs is an Approved Hatred in America

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

“First they came…” is a poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

Mr. Fleetwood-

I wanted to write you and thank you personally for your piece you
wrote for HuffingtonPost.com “An Arab Can’t Be a Family Man?”.

My parents came to this country 32 years ago from Egypt, my brother
and I were both born and raised in this country – and the McCain
campaign is fanning the idea that if you’re Arab or Muslim you’re less
American, less patriotic, and somehow suspect. We see how this plays
out on the campaign trail, but what about on main street? If these
crazies are willing to yell “kill him” at the potential President of
the United States, what would they do to their neighbor who may be or
Arab decent or may be Muslim?

Please continue to address this issue as it affects communities around
the country and ultimately our relationship with other nations around
the world.

Thank you,

Mohamed Abdel-Kader

In a post by By Bahija Reghai:

In the US, Rush Limbaugh recently (and falsely) reported that Barack Obama is an Arab- rather than African-American. Racism against African-Americans in the US may not be sufficient to block Senator Obama from the Presidency. But Limbaugh hopes the suggestion that he is actually of Arab ethnicity could do the trick. To compound the insult, the incident was widely reported as a “smear” on Mr. Obama, just as false accusations of him being a Muslim are frequently recounted.

An Arab Can’t Be A Good Family Man?

In no way am I suggesting that John McCain is qualified to be president of the United States. By temperament and policy, he is clearly not able to lead us in foreign affairs or domestic policy. He is mired in the cold war policies of the past. His aggressiveness is likely to provoke another useless war…

But in defending Barack Obama this week, McCain did a good thing.

A woman in a rabid right wing rally said, “We can’t trust Obama… He’s an Arab.”

McCain answered “No ma’am. That’s not true… He is a good family man.”

As if the two were mutually exclusive.
If McCain were smarter, he could have seized the Lincolnesque moment and have knocked it out of the park…He would have won political points among independents — who hate negative campaigning. He could have gone on a riff about how Arabs can be loyal Americans, etc.

Even now McCain could insure an enduring place in history, and perhaps help himself in the campaign. …..by delivering a major speech on these themes. Or maybe he could interject such ideas into Wednesday’s debate.

“My friends, a woman at a rally told me that my rival, Senator Obama, was suspect because he was an Arab.

“I want to say this once and for all. He is not an Arab. He is not a Muslim. He is a Christian and a loyal American..

“But even if he were an Arab or a Muslim, this would not preclude him from being President… There are millions of hard working Arab Americans and Muslim Americans who are loyal to this country and are to be honored.

“This kind of blind prejudice against Arabs or Muslims or black people or Jews or women is frankly un-American and traitorous to everything we stand for.

“Bigotry and hate speech must be stamped out and exposed whenever we see it.
“Voters — even my supporters — who give in to prejudice and racism are subverting everything that is good and special and noble about this great country of ours.
“The principles of our great, unprejudiced America are what I went to war to defend… this is precisely what our brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are fighting for.

“The bigots and hate mongers are the real traitors to what our country stands for. To what makes us so great.”

At this point McCain doesn’t have much to lose and he might have much to gain…
But Nah, he won’t do it. Not bright enough, not brave enough. Not Presidential enough.
Which is why he is going to lose.

write to: jfleetwood@aol.com

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About Blake Fleetwood

Blake Fleetwood Blake Fleetwood was formerly on the staff of The New York Times and has written for The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, The New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Village Voice, Atlantic and the Washington Monthly on a number of issues. He was born in Santiago, Chile and moved to New York City at the age of three. He graduated from Bard College and did graduate work in political science and comparative politics at Columbia University. He has also taught politics at New York University. He can be reached at jfleetwood@aol.com.
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